[Baltimore Sun] Salisbury women’s lacrosse’s Natalie Held, a Marriotts Ridge grad, named Division III Defender of the Year

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Salisbury women’s lacrosse’s Natalie Held picked up her phone at the end of an eight-hour work shift and immediately saw dozens of notifications. The junior defender’s phone filled up with supportive messages from former and current coaches, teammates and family celebrating the news: She was named the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association Division III Defender of the Year.

“I was beyond thrilled,” Held said. “I could never even imagine earning that, it’s such a big accomplishment. I was very proud of myself. I was so proud of my teammates because they were the ones who got me there. I was really excited. It was almost too good to be true. It seemed like it wasn’t real. It still doesn’t feel real.”

She anchored the Sea Gulls’ defense, setting career highs in draw controls (83), ground balls (55) and caused turnovers (40). Held also was named the Coast-to-Coast Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year for a second consecutive season. She also was selected to the All-Eastern College Athletic Conference team, one of two Salisbury players chosen.

The accolades are a testament to Held’s tenacious drive and work ethic, which she learned from her parents growing up. They always preached the value of hard work and that good things would come in return.

When Held arrived at Marriotts Ridge, that mentality immediately stood out to coach Amanda Brady.

“Natalie’s always been somebody who has been a quiet workhorse,” Brady said. “She is quiet by nature, leads by example and has the heart of a champion. She’s going to give you everything. An athlete on the field and even off the field, she’s somebody from the get-go, you knew she had that heart of a champion. She was such an integral part of our entire midfield unit on both ends of the field in transition.

“It’s been really fun to watch her flourish on the defensive end at Salisbury. I get texts from [Salisbury] coach Jim Nestor frequently. He was my coach in college. He adores her and loves her work ethic. Right as she walked into college, she’s been making this impact in the sense of impressing him and clearly now impressing all of Division III.”

Held began her lacrosse career as a defender, but at Marriotts Ridge, there were more opportunities as a midfielder. That time proved beneficial, increasing her lacrosse IQ by playing both ends of the field. Yet, Held always loved defense and saw the return to her natural position as an opportunity to refine her techniques and skill set.

She still benefits from that midfield experience, specifically her comfortability clearing the ball. However, she still underwent an adjustment period from high school to college. Like many freshmen, she recalls the anxious feelings that set in the first time she took the field.

Those previous nerves have transformed into confidence as she’s developed into one of the team’s leaders as evidenced by being a team captain this past season.

“I just try to be a leader when I’m down on defense,” Held said. “I feel like I strive the best when I’m comfortable with the girls around me that I’m playing with. There are multiple girls on my team who have made me a better defender just by the way they play defense next to me. I personally love one-on-ones, especially from up top. I know a lot of people do not like them. That’s one thing I enjoy doing, even though I find them very difficult. Those are the one of the things that I enjoy challenging myself at.”

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